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|Literal meaning||Peace be upon you|
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As-salamu alaykum (السلام عليكم) is an Arabic greeting often used by Muslims around the world and is widely used in the Muslim world even by non-Muslims. It nearly translates to "peace be upon you", but is often considered the equivalent to "hello", "hi" or "good day" in English. The standard response to the greeting is Wa alaykumu s-salam.
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Assalamu Alaykum is generally accompanied with another gesture. In some parts people put a hand on their heart as they shake hands and greet. In less formal situations, some will use the shorter greeting of 'Salam' instead of the full phrase.
The term as-salāmu ʿalaykoom varies slightly in pronunciation from country to country, but always remains universally intelligible. The classical pronunciation of the greeting in Literary Arabic is /assaˈlaːmu ʕaˈlajkum/. Many people today omit the initial 'As' and pronounce the word as "Salaamu `Alaykum". In many parts of the world, indeed in most of the non-Arabic speaking countries the greeting is pronounced [asalaːmʊ aleɪkʊm] or in a similar variation. This is especially common in Africa, the South Asia, South East Asia and in Eastern Europe—not to mention North America. In some other cases, it omits the "u" at the end of "as-salaam" to make it shorter and less formal.
For an example of different pronunciations, Pakistanis tend to emphasise the 'ssalam aLAYkum', whereas Indonesian pronunciation is monotonous until the last syllable ('assalamuAlaiKUM').
Amongst various Arabic speaking countries there is also a varied pronunciation. In Morocco the greeting is usually pronounced [səleːmu leikum]. In Egypt: [sæˈlæmu ʕæˈleːku], the final /u/'s alternate with [o] and the expected reply similar to a reply on "hi", is [we ʕæˈlekom essæˈlæːm].
|Literal meaning||Peace be upon you|
The term in Arabic uses the second person plural, even when used to address one person, similar to the use of vous in French. However, the term may also be modified to address a person in the masculine and feminine singular form, the dual form, or the feminine plural form. The conjugations are as follow (note: according to classical Arabic, the last short vowel in each word is not pronounced unless it is followed by another word):
As-salāmu `alayk(a) —Peace be upon you (m. sing.)
As-salāmu `alayk(i) —Peace be upon you (f. sing)
As-salāmu `alaykumā —Peace be upon you (to two people of any gender)
As-salāmu `alaykum —Peace be upon you (To a group of three or more people, where at least one is a male - or to a member of state such as a prime minister, president, king)
The correct response depends on who is addressing the person. The same rules from above for singularity, duality and plurality apply:
Wa `alayk(...) s-salām.
A more formal reply, "wa `alaykumu s-salāmu wa rahmatu l-lāhi wa barakātuh," meaning "may peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you," may be used to be more courteous, as the Qur'an commands, in Sura 4, verse 86:
"When a greeting is offered, you answer it with an even better greeting, or (at least) with its like. Allah keeps account of all things."
The better greeting and reply are illustrated in the following Hadith concerning the companions of Muhammad, Umar, and Abu Bakr, riding together on one mount. When they passed by people, Abu Bakr greeted them saying: "Assalamu alaikum" and they replied: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah." Or he may greet them saying: "Assalamu alaikum wa rahmatu Allah," for which their reply was: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah wa barakatuh." Abu Bakr commented: "Today, people have gained much more than us." Sahih al-Bukhari in Al-Adab Al-Mufrad
Each time Abu Bakr offered a greeting, its reply was the same with an addition. The first one was the short form of the greeting of peace. The reply stated: "Wa alaikum assalam wa rahmatu Allah," meaning "And to you be peace together with Allah's mercy." Thus, the reply adds a prayer that the person who offered the greeting should be blessed with Allah's mercy, both in this life, and in the life to come.
When the person who starts the greeting includes in it this same prayer for mercy to the one being accosted, the latter replies with yet another addition, "wa barakatuh," which adds a wish for Allah's blessing to the one who took advantage and offered us a friendly greeting. Abu Bakr's comment at the end of the Hadith shows that he was pleased with the fact that people always replied to his greeting with a better one.
The form salāmun `Alaykum is especially used in Turkey, where it is spelled Selamün Aleyküm.
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It is also preferred to use the greeting when arriving and also when leaving. It was reported that Abu Hurayrah said “When one of you joins a gathering, let him say salaam. When he wants to get up and leave, let him say salaam. The former is not more important than the latter.” (Hasan hadith reported in Jāmi` al-Tirmidhi)